2017: A Time for Change?

Image result for time for change
I realise it’s been quite a while since my last post, so apologies for this. Things have been very busy of late and with starting a new job, training hard over the winter and applying for Doctorate courses time has been very hard to come by!

New Year, new me?

So, 2016 has come and gone in flash. Many of you will have reflected on the season gone by and generated goals and targets for the season to come. Some of you may have even have made new years resolutions in an effort to motivate yourself for training and racing in the year ahead.

Despite positive intentions and commitment, these new years resolutions can often be very difficult to keep. Those of you that have made new years resolutions may have found motivation to stick these is waning or has gone altogether! If this is you, don’t worry, you’re not alone, many find new years resolutions hard to keep:

Out of the 32% of the population that make new years resolutions, 43% break these within the first month, and 86% within the first year! (1)

So why is this? What are the reasons new years resolutions so often fail? And what can we do make effective and sustained positive change?

Well, there are numerous reasons why new years resolutions fail, but in this post, I will be focusing on some of the key ones, including:

  • Poor goal setting
  • Lack of motivation
  • Goal misalignment

But firstly, why do goals, targets and plans for change have to be made at the start of a new year?! You have the potential to make positive, meaningful change at any point, so why wait until the new year!

SMART Goal Setting

Poor goal setting is one of the biggest reason that planned change is unsuccessful and is one of the easiest things to get right if you are SMART about it.

Image result for smart goal setting

Ensuring you are SMART with your goal setting significantly increases the chances of achieving your goals!

Here are two examples of goals that a triathlete might set, which do you think is more likely to be successfully followed?

Example 1: I want to swim more often

Example 2: I want to swim 2500m, 3 times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday for 1 hour from 7-8pm at (insert local pool name here) swimming pool.

Motivation

Another key determinant of successful change is motivation. Motivation can be defined as a want or desire to direct goal-oriented behaviour (2).

Seems plausible right?

Well, actually motivation is more than this, it is also determined by an individuals confidence to initiate and sustain change.

Therefore, when generating goals it is important to have both a want or desire to make a change and also have the confidence to implement and sustain this change. Without these two crucial elements, motivation to make goal-oriented change/behaviour may not be sufficient to initiate and sustain this change.

‘Effort Justification’

We can often feel that the goals we value most highly are the ones which require the most effort to achieve. As we have put a considerable amount of effort into achieving these goals we may try to convince ourselves that making this effort was enjoyable and that we didn’t really have to put that much effort in! However, putting in the effort does not necessarily make this effort worthwhile.

This ‘effort justification’ (3) may be used as a method of reducing cognitive dissonance (a conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistencies between a person’s beliefs and their actions). Therefore, when designing goals it’s important that you are putting the effort in in the right places, for example, something that holds particular importance and meaning to you.

Re-evaluating your Goals

The decision to re-evaluate your goal/s may be very difficult and it’s important that you don’t consider goal re-evaluation as a failure to achieve your original goal. Goals constantly need to be refreshed and redefined to reflect progress and change in your life. Here are some of the signs that your goals might need re-evaluating.

  • You’re experiencing anxiety, depression, hopelessness, or extreme amounts of stress as a result of your goal
  • You’ve stopped making progress, or have lost interest in or the desire to achieve your goal
  • The drawbacks of pursuing your goal outweigh the benefits of achieving it
  • The conditions, payoffs, or circumstances of this goal have change

Conclusion

So to conclude, we all have the capacity to make meaningful and positive change, whether that be in your life as a triathlete, or in any aspect of your life in general. Setting goals can be a great way to initiative and sustain change behaviour, so remember next time you set a goal, be SMART, be motivated, make sure you are putting the effort into something that holds a particular importance to you (no matter how small or trivial this may seem) and don’t be afraid to re-evaulate, re-assess and redefine your goals.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek (Barrack Obama)”

*Disclaimer – I am not a qualified psychologist, so am not an expert on these topics. However I am currently working as an assistant psychologist and have a bachelors degree and Masters in Psychology, and therefore have some knowledge and experience of mental health issues.

  1. Bupa/ComRes, November 2015
  2. Kleinginna, P., Jr., & Kleinginna A. (1981a). A categorized list of motivation definitions, with suggestions for a consensual definition. Motivation and Emotion, 5, 263-291.
  3. Festinger, L. (1959). Some attitudinal consequences of forced decisions. Acta Psychologica, 15, 389-390.
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